(Photo Credit: AlexanderJonesi, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
Here’s a list of facts:
Bill Belichick has won six Super Bowls as a head coach, most all-time
Belichick has eight Super Bowl rings in total, also a record
Belichick has appeared in twelve Super Bowls total, the all-time record, and nine as a head coach, also the all-time record
Belichick has won an all-time record 31 playoff games, and has the record for most division championships with seventeen
Belichick will probably not be coaching in 2024
Wait, what? Bill Belichick won’t be coaching in 2024? If you’re reading the tea leaves correctly, that last statement is as true as any before it. Despite having the greatest coaching resumé in all of professional sports, Belichick, it seems, will be out of a job – and this begs the question: why does no one want Bill?
It’s hard to fathom. When Belichick and the New England Patriots parted ways on January 11, there were six job openings (seven if you include New England), and you could make a compelling case that Belichick was a strong fit for any of them. And yet, as of today, there are just two openings left and no indication that Belichick is the front-runner. What happened?
The answer, of course, is complicated. Let’s start with the obvious: Belichick isn’t a spring chicken anymore. At 71-years-old, he’s a full five years and eleven months older than the NFL’s current oldest head coach, Kansas City’s Andy Reid. But while age in and of itself isn’t a negative, it certainly isn’t doing him any favors. Let me explain:
New head coaches have a lot on their plate. They have to instill their culture and program sure, but they also have set expectations for their staff, find and acquire players that fit their system, manage tons of different egos, and they have to do it all while taking over a situation that was bad enough to get the previous guy canned. As you can imagine, this all typically doesn't happen overnight.
And that’s where Belichick’s age becomes critical. His capacity for patience is diminishing, if he ever had it in the first place. The teams in the head coaching hunt aren’t all quick fixes, and even those that are will need the touch of someone around for the long-haul. Belichick, needing just fifteen wins to surpass Don Shula for the most wins of all-time, feels like a mercenary at this point.
Take a moment to think about the six (seven including the Patriots) teams that had head coaching openings. The one thing they all have in common? Unsettled quarterback situations. The Patriots moved on from Belichick in part because of his failure to develop Mac Jones into anything resembling an adequate quarterback. Now teams like the Panthers, Falcons, Commanders, Seahawks and Titans are lining up to bring him in?
Of all the head-coach needy teams, the Chargers have the most settled quarterback situation with Justin Herbert, but even they decided against Belichick in favor of Jim Harbaugh. Why? Well, for one thing, Harbaugh is over a decade younger than Belichick. Harbaugh doesn’t have one foot out the door already. But the most important factor is the one that’s probably the biggest reason Belichick doesn’t have a job already: control.
For 24 years, Belichick was the undisputed top dog in New England. Not only was he the head coach, he was the de facto general manager as well. Scheme, personnel, offseason programs, you name it, Belichick was in charge of it. This arrangement obviously worked incredibly well in New England, especially when Tom Brady was in town. But once Brady left for Tampa, things started to get a little rocky.
If you combine the five years Belichick was head coach of the Cleveland Browns, the year Brady tore his ACL in Week One in 2008, and the four years in New England after Brady left, Belichick has a coaching record of 76 - 87. That’s a winning percentage of .466 – a far cry from the .647 winning percentage he accumulated over the course of his career. Am I saying that Brady carried Bill? Of course not. But, if I was an owner of a football team, would that have me concerned? You betcha.
None of this is to say that Belichick can’t coach. Despite his offenses in New England completely cratering post-Brady, his defenses managed to stay competitive. He’s still the architect of the game plan that embarrassed Sean McVay and the high-flying Rams in Super Bowl LIII. If you need someone to win you a single game, there aren’t many coaches you’d take ahead of ole’ Hoodie.
And for the record, Belichick deserves credit for drafting, developing, and – most importantly – empowering Brady. He saw something in Brady that no one else did, and he believed in him when everyone thought it was crazy. But Tom Brady 2.0 isn’t walking in the doors for the Falcons. He isn’t on the Chargers roster. He can’t help the Panthers, Seahawks, Commanders or Titans. Belichick is going to have to solve their problems by himself – and unfortunately, his track record in that department isn’t the most encouraging.
So, it seems Belichick will take the year off. Of the two openings that remain, Washington and Seattle, neither seems like a good fit anymore. Washington, by all accounts, has the hots for Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, while Seattle likely isn’t interested in replacing a 72-year-old Pete Carroll with a 71-year-old Belichick. It might be off to the booth for Belichick – at least for one season.
But honestly, this could work out in Belichick’s favor. He’ll have an opportunity to self-scout and learn some new tricks. He’ll have the opportunity to sit back and observe the NFL landscape as a third-party. Most importantly though, he’ll be first in line for any team who’s thinking about making a coaching change.
After their quick exits in the playoffs, the NFL media immediately began speculating about the job security for the Eagles Nick Siriani and the Cowboys Mike McCarthy. You can throw the Bills Sean McDermott in the mix too. And guess what? Even though they weren’t sent to the guillotine this year, their stay of execution was merely postponed, not canceled. There’s a better than zero chance that one – if not all three – of these jobs are open by this time next year. And best of all? These are some desperate, QB-secure teams that won’t hesitate to throw a blank check at Belichick to get them a championship.
In 2024, it seems, Belichick just doesn't have a good fit. Most teams weren’t desperate enough to go for the elder statesman, and Bill wasn’t desperate enough for the ones that were (cough cough, Carolina, cough). Fortunately, this could all work out to Belichick’s advantage. Sometimes, patience does have its rewards – and for Belichick, that could mean a ready-made Super Bowl roster in 2025.